That which results in pain, sorrow, or distress. In order to convey the correct thought in English, the very comprehensive Hebrew word raʽ is variously translated as “bad,” “gloomy,” “ugly,” “evil,” “calamitous,” “malignant,” “ungenerous,” and “envious,” depending upon the context. (Ge 2:9; 40:7; 41:3; Ex 33:4; De 6:22; 28:35; Pr 23:6; 28:22) The Greek word ka·kosʹ may be defined as that which is (1) morally evil and (2) destructive; among the ways it has been translated are: “bad,” “evil,” “hurtful,” “injurious,” “wrong.” (Ro 7:19; 12:17; Col 3:5; Tit 1:12; Heb 5:14) The Hebrew verb qa·lalʹ means “call down evil upon.”
As first used in the Scriptures, the word raʽ is the very antithesis of good. Adam was commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad (raʽ) and was also warned of the consequences for disobedience. Hence, it is evident that God sets the standard as to what is good and what is bad; it is not within man’s prerogative to do so apart from God. Although Adam transgressed God’s express law, this transgression is not chargeable to Jehovah, “for with evil things [form of ka·kosʹ] God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone. But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire.”
The Meaning of Jehovah’s Bringing Evil. Rightly, Jehovah brought evil or calamity upon Adam for his disobedience. Hence, in the Scriptures, Jehovah is referred to as the Creator of evil or calamity. (Isa 45:7; compare KJ.) His enforcing of the penalty for sin, namely, death, has proved to be an evil, or a calamity, for mankind. So, then, evil is not always synonymous with wrongdoing. Examples of evils or calamities created by Jehovah are the Flood of Noah’s day and the Ten Plagues visited upon Egypt. But these evils were not wrongs. Rather, the rightful administration of justice against wrongdoers was involved in both cases. However, at times Jehovah, in his mercy, has refrained from bringing the intended calamity or evil in execution of his righteous judgment because of the repentance on the part of those concerned. (Jon 3:10) Additionally, in having a warning given, Jehovah has undeservedly provided opportunities for the practicers of bad to change their course and thus to keep living.
Avoidance of Evil. Since Jehovah determines the standard of right and wrong, it behooves the individual to acquaint himself with that standard fully in order to be able to discern what course must be followed. (Heb 5:14) The love of money is one of those evil, or injurious, things to be avoided. (1Ti 6:10) It is unwise to be anxious about material things, for, as Jesus said, “sufficient for each day is its own badness [ka·kiʹa],” that is, the trouble, or affliction, associated with the day. (Mt 6:34) In putting on the new personality, “hurtful desire” is included among the things to be eliminated. (Col 3:5) As the Devil tempted Jesus with evil, so Christians find that evil thoughts crop up or are presented to them. But to avoid being drawn into sin when this happens, the Christian should follow Jesus’ example and dismiss such evil immediately. (Jas 1:13-15; Mt 4:1-11; Php 4:8) Although, because of human imperfection, a Christian finds himself in constant conflict with the fallen flesh, as did Paul, and may do the bad that he does not wish to practice, he must not give in to the flesh but must keep up the fight against it. (Ro 7:21; 8:8) The danger of failing to live up to God’s righteous requirements is clearly seen in what Jesus stated concerning the faithful slave. The severest punishment was to be meted out to that slave if he failed to care for the responsibilities entrusted to him and even went to the point of beating his fellow slaves.
Christian Suffering of Evil. The Scriptures do not authorize the Christian to bring evil upon others, or to retaliate in kind. The Bible’s counsel is: “Return evil for evil to no one.” “Do not avenge yourselves . . . ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Ro 12:17, 19, 21) Moreover, in giving relative subjection to the governments ruling over them, servants of God should never be found to be practicers of what is bad, for such governments, through their rulers who have a measure of God-given conscience to a lesser or greater degree, act against badness according to the law of the land and rightfully exercise their authority to punish wrongdoers. (Ro 13:3, 4) For any misuse of their authority they will be accountable to the Supreme Judge. By suffering evil for righteousness’ sake, the Christian shares in the privilege of having a part in the glorifying of God’s holy name.